At first sight, the teenage sports star and the six-year-old cancer survivor don’t appear to have much in common.
But they’re from the same background and both are ambassadors for Rhys’ Rangers, the charity that supports CLIC Sargent for children with cancer.
Luton Sixth Form College student Elliott Browne of Limbury is already an athletics star, while little Rhys Kiernan – a pupil at The Meads Primary, where Elliott started – will never be able to play contact sports. He was diagnosed with a brain tumour two years ago.
But they’re learning a lot from each other, just as their mothers hoped they would. And they’re destined to be a double act at future fundraisers.
Rhys’ mum Keely and Elliott’s mum Amanda have been friends since their schooldays at Lea Manor.
Keely, of Ventnor Gardens, said: “In my eyes Elliott’s a superstar. He’s been Luton Young Sportsman of the Year three times in a row and represented Great Britain at the European championships in Portugal.
“Yet he’s such a modest boy not many people know what he’s achieved.
“I thought it would be fantastic for him to come to fundraising events with his medals – and Rhys thinks he’s awesome!”
Amanda, 44, facilities manager at Salto Gymnastics Club in Sundon Park, agreed. “It’s a wonderful idea, especially if Elliott can make a few children smile or put a few more pounds in the collecting bucket. “And it’ll be good for him to understand, while he’s still young, that there are children so much less able than him.”
The youngster, who trains at Harlequin School of Gymnastics in Leighton Buzzard, is still on a high after winning bronze for tumbling in Portugal. And he admitted that before meeting Rhys he couldn’t imagine a life without sport: “I have two older brothers who play football to a high level so learning about children with cancer makes me very grateful I’m OK.”
Rhys is currently in remission but Keely confessed she can never relax.
“My nerves are shot to pieces,” she said. “Every time he has a behaviour change I think ‘Is he just being naughty or is there something wrong?’ My friends all say ‘Look away, Keely – he’s just doing little boy things.’
“But it’s always there, knowing your life can change in an instant. I don’t know what we would have done without CLIC Sargent. They even gave us a grant for petrol when Rhy was in Addenbrooke’s Hospital.
“He’s such a happy child, he just loves life. And he’s bursting with excitement about Elliott joining him as a CLIC Sargent ambassador.”